The Feds Want To Help Automakers Solve Battery Problems

The future of private and public ground transportation is electric. Those still in denial will eventually wake up to the new reality. More automakers will soon join General Motors, Volvo, Ford of Europe, and Jaguar in pledging to phase out internal combustion engines by a planned deadline. Battery electrics like the Hyundai Ioniq 5, Chevrolet Bolt EUV, and Ford Mustang Mach-E are to become the new mainstream. This certainly sounds great to environmentalists but, like always, getting there will be more complicated than it seems.

And if there’s one key lesson the auto industry and the US government have learned due to the semiconductor chip shortage, it’s this: don’t rely on overseas supply chains.

The long-term solution is domestic production, and this applies to electric vehicle batteries as well. Reuters reports Jennifer Granholm, former governor of Michigan and current US Secretary of Energy, understands the country needs to increase production of essential minerals for EV batteries, though she wants this to be done in a sustainable manner.

But at the same time, Granholm and her boss, President Biden, are fully aware that the continued reliance on China for lithium and other rare earth minerals is untenable. “Many parts of the country are sitting on top of the materials that we need to produce battery technologies,” Granholm said during a recent webinar.

Granholm, whose daily driver is a Chevy Bolt, believes there would be “huge demand” for a sustainable mining process in the US. She suggested coal miners could be retrained to dig for EV metals, describing it as “a natural shift for them.” Domestic mineral mining could even help reduce EV costs for consumers.

No automaker has publicly commented on Granholm’s proposal but they likely find it quite appealing. She didn’t lay out a specific timetable when the Biden administration hopes to begin domestic mineral mining, but given the rapid pace of automakers adopting electrification, this will have to happen fairly soon.

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